Having just represented Aikido Club at the Refreshers Week Sports fayre, Brendan Mackay, Club Captain, met with The Saint to discuss the core principles of the discipline and two upcoming courses the club are delighted to be a part of.

Brandishing a bokken, a sort of wooden katana, Mr Mackay’s enthusiasm for Aikido was tangible. He said, “I liked the way people approached it. The teachers seemed they had a real connection to it. It is something that really gelled who I was – I came to expand on skills, make friends and enjoy life.”

Mr Mackay, a 19-year-old Molecular Biology student, took up Aikido when he came to St Andrews and has been involved with the club for a year and a half. Aikido differs from other martial arts in that it is entirely non-violent, something Mackay was keen to stress, “Aikido is a non-violent martial art, which embodies teachings of o’sensei.”

The philosophy behind the martial art is that you should try and walk away from fights with both you and your opponent unharmed.

Mr Mackay added, “It entirely embodies the idea of self-defence. A lot of martial arts will sell themselves on self-defence. This doesn’t mean it’s non-violent. Aikido is never violent, even in self-defence.”

The University of St Andrews Aikido Club has two special events just around the corner, one being a memorial session in honour of Alan Ruddock – the man responsible for bringing Aikido to Ireland.

“For Alan Ruddock, Aikido was a lifelong journey – it’s not just extracurricular but something you embody. Alan was all about making everyone try Aikido,” Mr Mackay said.

Ruddock, who died in 2012, also brought Karate to Ireland was one of few Western Aikido practitioners to have been trained under the founder of the martial art, Morihei Ueshiba.

Throughout his career, he taught Aikido across Europe and formed his own organisation, called Aiki No Machi. Much of his work was also influenced by Henry Kono (pictured with Ruddock, left) and the Aiki No Machi organisation has since developed beyond its original base on the Isle of Man. Indeed, branches still survive in Europe and across North America.

The event is set to be a big deal for the club, with several Aikido experts travelling to the bubble for the weekend of 1 April. It will cost £6 for two days for members and £9 for non-members, with the club doing their best to keep prices low. Another session, a self-defence seminar hosted by Rory Miller, is due to take place later in April. This session is more accessible than normal martial arts based courses and has a focus on the psychological aspects of defence.

As well as occasions such as these, the Aikido Club regularly meet three times a week – Thursdays 8:30pm-10:30pm, Saturdays 5pm-7:30 pm and Sundays 1pm-3pm. Three professionally trained coaches, all of whom have Black belts, lead the sessions.

Ricky Craig, one of the coaches, believes that students who spend four years doing Aikido at the University can achieve a black belt by the time they graduate. Club Captain Mackay, set for this goal, is keen for the Aikido community to expand and encourages newcomers to attend.

Mr Mackay said, “Aikido is the cheapest martial arts class at £20 a year and you don’t have to pay membership until you know you want to go.”

To get involved with one of these events or if you want to find out more about Aikido, email aikido@saints-sport.com.

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